This is one of the simplest yet most profound parenting tips I’ve heard:
When your child is driving you absolutely insane,
and you wish he’d just get with the program and act like a civilized human being,
and you’re sick and tired of his getting in the way of all the very important things you need to get done,
and he’s making the most aggravating noise you’ve ever heard,
and you’re beginning to understand how it is some people throw a child against a wall,
Just take a moment to really look at your child and see how small he is, how soft and fragile and new, how inexperienced in coping with the stresses of life. Why, just a few years ago, he didn’t even exist! It’s really not so surprising that a brief delay in his acquisition of raisins strikes him as a great tragedy, or that his feelings overwhelm his polite communication abilities. A problem that looks small to you looks very big to such a small person.
That resets your perspective, and then one of several things can happen:
You might remember that this is the child you wanted so much, the precious gift you were so grateful to receive, the one who much of the time is one of your favorite people. Then you suddenly see a darling baby who just needs some love and understanding, and you realize that helping him is one of the important things you need to do.
You might feel pretty dumb for getting so upset by a three-foot-tall person wearing a Cookie Monster hoodie. Then you calm down, remember that you are the grown-up, and demonstrate appropriate behavior.
You might hold your child’s little hand, that amazing construction of bones and tendons and creamy-soft skin and weensy fingernails, and remember that you made that hand. You made a whole real person!! Then you realize you are not so powerless after all; you’re capable of miracles. Surely you can get through this one moment.
You might realize that the frustration and anger and exhaustion threatening to overwhelm you are big feelings, and your child has these same huge feelings crammed into a much smaller body. Then you feel empathy. You remember how it felt when you were very small and upset, and you treat your child the way you needed to be treated.
You might notice how much of the tension is coming from you. All the stresses of your life are piled up so that your child’s tantrum is the straw that breaks your back…but while you’re rolling your eyes at his shrieking over some little thing that doesn’t really matter, you are yourself obsessed with a lot of little things. Then you try to relax and stop sweating the small stuff and focus on the big picture. You remind yourself that you’re still struggling with this while your child has had a lot less practice, and you hear new wisdom in the words of the Beatles:
Try to realize it’s all within yourself–
No one else can make you change–
And to see you’re really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you.